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Describe the system of trial by jury within the English legal system

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Introduction

Section A: Describe the system of trial by jury within the English legal system. Over many years people have become familiarised by the term 'jury'. It is an essential part of our legal system, and can be traced back to the middle ages. In the Magna Carta, 1215, Clause 39 of the charter basically says that no man shall be imprisoned unless decided by his peers. It seemed a fair way to sentence someone. Juries have, however, normally still been under the power of the judge. Judges were allowed to fine or punish juries that come up with a verdict different to what he thinks himself. The independence of the jury finally happened in Bushel's Case, 1670. This happened following the trial of William Penn, who was being tried for unlawful speaking. Edward Bushel was a juror in the trial. All of the jury were treated unfairly, and eventually imprisoned, for the verdict that they came to. Whilst in prison, Bushel filed a writ of habeas corpus, which is a legal procedure that allows prisoners to argue the legality of their imprisonment. Chief Justice Vaughan agreed with Bushel and ordered the confined jurors to be released. Bushel's Case is very important in law because it basically invented jury nullification. The court made it clear that it is by the decision of the jury, not judge, that someone will be sentenced. ...read more.

Middle

Summoning the jury is how the process starts. A jury summoning computer has a special copy of the electoral register, marked with the names of people eligible. Then a list of 150 people is made, whom all of which will be sent a notice saying that they have been summoned, and also explaining ineligibility, excusals etc. the potential jurors must then appear at the court to be questioned to determine any unfair biases and if they are qualified for service. Lists of jurors are then made of different people to send to various courts around England. A jury of 12 is then selected by ballot from the panel in open court. The chosen jury must then be vetted. There are 2 kinds of jury vetting that have been authorised to be used. These are the checking of criminal records, and the checking of special branch and security services records in cases involving national security or terrorist attacks. Any other records are not allowed to be checked, as this is an invasion of privacy. Records must be checked in order to make sure that people are qualified for the role. Jury challenging is a process in which the defence and prosecution can argue that the jury chosen is biased. Defence alone can argue that the whole jury has been chosen in a biased or unrepresentative way. ...read more.

Conclusion

When a jury need to come to a decision they must exit the courtroom and enter a private room to discuss the case they just saw. Everything that goes on in the room must be strictly confidential. No-one other than the jurors may know what happened and the jury cannot tell people either. If a juror does tell someone anything they are guilty of contempt of the court and can either be fined or sent to prison. When a jury retires to the room, they are told that they must all agree on a verdict. The decision must be unanimous. However, if more than 2 hours have been spent where the jury are trying to come to a unanimous decision, the judge will ask them to return to the courtroom and then tell them they can reach a majority decision. For a majority decision to be allowed at least ten jurors must agree. The vote can then be either 11-1 or 10-2. When a jury falls below eleven jurors then at least nine of these must agree. Once a jury has decided on a verdict, they must return to the courtroom and the clerk will ask what decision they have come to. The foreman or forewoman on the jury (the spokesperson) must say whether the verdict is guilty or not guilty, and whether it was a unanimous or majority verdict. If the verdict is guilty by majority, the spokesperson must say how many jurors agreed. The judge will then sentence the defendant. If the verdict is not guilty then the defendant will be acquitted. ...read more.

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